Monday, June 9, 2008

One Local Homage

I decided not to participate in One Local Summer because frankly, I was feeling a little burnt out "challenge" wise. May had been kind of a disaster, I had barely managed my own challenge (ie I cheated a LOT) and I had completely ignored Crunchy's Extreme Eco Throwdown challenge.

So I figured I'd do my own personal challenge for June, but by and large, I wanted to keep things pretty challenge-free. Plus, I had the feeling that the Bean twins would be preparing these ridiculously amazing 12-course meals, and I'd be showing up to One Local Summer all, "I ate a salad."

Of course, then when it was too late I had a brain wave for One Local Summer, and while I think it's too late to join the challenge officially, this idea is too good to pass up. So, I decided I'm going to unofficially play along from time to time on this here blog.

See, when I was a child, I was a total bookworm. I read everything under the sun, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, you name it. But my absolute favorite author in the whole world, was none other than Enid Blyton.

I suspect at this point, CAE, Beany, and Pink Dogwood are nodding along, and the rest of you are looking at me all, "Huh?" Well, I am sorry, Americans. You led deprived childhoods. Because there are a few things the Brits do way better than anyone else in the world, and children's fiction is one of those things. While she lacks fame in the States, Enid Blyton is beloved worldwide, and her stories have inspired hundreds of thousands of readers, including, most famously JK Rowling. (Anyone else notice the many similarities between Mallory Towers and Hogwarts?)

Because Enid Blyton's books aren't readily available in the United States, reading a new book of hers always felt like a special and momentous occasion. Every time we traveled to India, we would have to make a stop at the bookstore right away so I could load up on Mallory Towers, Five Find-Outers, and Famous Five books. I'd hug my books to my chest, eagerly anticipating the moment when I would crack the spines open. As soon as we arrived home, I'd take my books, curl up on the divan, and be lost to the world until dinner, where I'd try to continue reading until someone yelled at me.

One of the most iconic attributes of any Enid Blyton book are the numerous passages detailing the meals the children eat. And, oh, man, did that food sound amazing! I was a little Indian-American girl, and I had never eaten nor seen most of this food, but I had visions in my head of what this heavenly food must taste like. Scones I imagined to be cone shaped pastries laced with honey. Macaroons must be syrupy sticky macaroni noodles, sort of half-pasta, half-Jalebi. Pudding I understood as we had that in the States, though I admit steak and kidney pudding confused the hell out of me. Chocolate sponges obviously looked like sponges and tasted of chocolate. And tinned sardines and kippers were utterly foreign, but I assumed that they must taste salty and wonderful, rather like beef jerky.

And then there was all the food that I did understand properly, toast oozing with butter, cucumber sandwiches, hunks of cheese and freshly baked bread, ripe fruit of all kinds, and newly laid eggs.

The books would always make me so hungry, that I would have to go to the kitchen and ask for some toast. Then I would sit, and continue to read, scattering crumbs here and there through the pages.
Anyway, back to One Local Summer. I've been complaining a lot about how cooking takes all this time, and I don't have the time, and so then I end up eating strawberries for dinner or something similarly sad, and that local eating is haaaaard! But then a few days ago, I had a brainstorm. Why not use Enid Blyton's novels as inspiration for One Local Summer?

See, the primary reason why the meals were so appealing, is that the children were always stopping at local farmhouses and buying newly made butter or recently picked corn. Everything was always fresh and extremely local. But the meals itself, aside from the baked goods like the macaroons and scones, were often pretty simple (because the children did a lot of picnicking and camping.) Even I can put together a meal of cucumber sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, ripe berries, and tea.

So here's my Enid Blyton-inspired local meal of the week:

Grilled whole-wheat bread with ripe red tomatoes and luscious goat brie cheese. Boiled corn on the cob dressed Indian style with lemon and mirch. One entire cucumber, a juicy apricot and a bowl of succulent blackberries. Prepared in under 10 minutes, and yet, as the Famous Five would say, absolutely "gorgeous!"


hgg said...

Yum. I don't spend much time cooking either - I don't think it's worth the effort when it's just me. But squeeze a clove of garlic and some olive oil over warm pasta, add some fresh tomatoes and voilà that's still a decent meal.

Anonymous said...

ahh, Enid Blyton. I still have all her books that were given to me as a child, they are now bearing my childrens names. She was indeed a brilliant story teller.


pink dogwood said...

Wow arduous - I am nodding my head. Love your simple local meal :)

I haven't joined any challenge either (except for green beans book challenge which is not exactly a challenge since I love to read :). I also have my own personal challenge - I am trying to start a compost pile. I already have a little bucket of kitchen scraps accumulating. I need to figure out how to get a compost bin and whatever else is required to properly start the process.

Joyce said...

Nice to know someonelse got in trouble for reading at the table. I was always trying to hide an open book in my lap and read while appearing to be looking down at my plate. Never succeeded in fooling anyone!

Mad Hatter said...

I totally read Enid Blyton! Mallory Towers, Famous Five, the St. Clare's series, Secret Seven, Magic Faraway Tree, etc. This brings back so many memories.

My grade school classmates and I would each buy a different book in the series and exchange them so nobody had to buy all of them. I even had one of my books confiscated by the headmistress once because she caught me reading during class! :-)

Chile said...

Not familiar with the author, but totally familiar with the reading the hours away concept. As kids, we weren't allowed to watch much TV so we read. A lot. There were 2,300 books in our house (plus another 2,100 when my grandfather moved in with us). I love books!

Your meal looks perfect for a summer day. I like that seasoning idea for the corn, and will try it if we get some in the CSA tomorrow.

Green Bean said...

Love it! Honestly, that is how we eat most nights. I just turn on the 12 course meals for my OLS meal. ;-) Looks delicious.

hmd said...

That's my kind of meal! I'm the same way. I joined the One Local Summer challenge and I'm afraid most of my meals are going to look the same week after week. I might get a little creative, but I have limits (and they're pretty low). I'm all about easy food. Honestly, I prefer it to a fancy meal. Give me a good sandwich anyday!

Sam said...

Ooo...I was nodding my head. I can't believe American kids were so deprived. I LOVE Enid Blyton! I mean I was frequently grounded because I spent more time devouring her books than anything else. Her meals did make my mouth water even though I had no idea what in the world half the stuff was....I especially remember her descriptions of tomatoes - it made me want to eat them. And I used to hate tomatoes.

I tried (unsuccessfully) to create my own little band of little detectives in search of mysteries and evil doers. We did have some picnics in an abandoned house that was well decorated with soft toys...but no mysteries were ever solved.

Sam said...

And yer meal sounds delicious! I love eating corn with chile and lime juice. Yum!

ruchi said...

Yay! I'm glad so many people love Enid Blyton as well! Enid Blyton is almost as important as tea!!

HGG, that does sound good. Mmmm, I might have to make that for dinner this week. Unfortunately I have no source for local pasta, so it wouldn't count as local, but it still would count as delicious!

Molly, I still have all her books too! I am going to be really sad when inevitably my children hate her books! ;)

PD, yeah, I have to get around to the composting too. Eventually.

Joyce, one of the nice things about being a grown up is I can read at the table all I want. Oh, I know, I should focus on my food, but I love reading a good book as I eat a delicious summer meal!

Jam, that's a great idea! I bet your kids would love to have an Enid Blyton-style picnic!

Mad Hatter, oh I LOVED the Faraway Tree series! I wish there really were magic trees, because that one sounded so awesome.

Chile, you should try it. It is delicious. It is even better if you have corn fresh roasted on the streets of Delhi, but this is a good close second. I boil the corn because it's easier especially if it is just me, but roasting the corn will taste better.

GB, it was good! Simple and good, that's my motto. Luckily in the summer time, the simple meals are what you want anyway.

Heather, I am totally a sandwich girl. I appreciate good, complicated food too, but I also love a simple sandwich and fruit.

Haha, Beany, I would have loved to have been a member of the Secret Seven or something too! But we didn't have many mysteries or strange going ons happening around my house....

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

OMG I loved Enid Blyton! Especially the Famous Five and Mallory Towers. I soooo wanted to go to boarding school and ride ponies and swim and have midnight feasts. I did see the similarities when I read the first Harry Potter book!

Beany, my sister and I tried to solve mysteries too. We managed to concoct some fabulous story around some pieces of yellow plastic we found while out on our bikes (OMG CLUES!!!), and even spied on some workmen for a while. We were convinced they were building some kind of secret weapon - out of yellow plastic, of course!

I also loved the Swallows and Amazons series, which was not by Enid Blyton but had similar themes, except they were all to do with sailing. They also had long passages about food eaten around camp fires.

Ahhh, memories. I'm sure if I read them again now I'd just laugh at the prejudices of the old British class system. Remember the gypsies??!!

ruchi said...

I know, the classism and sexism does bug, but I try to remind myself that Enid Blyton was a product of her time, and just let it roll over me. Also I think not being British myself, the classism bugs me less than it would if I WERE British and had actually experienced classism first hand.

I also really wanted to go to boarding school, and almost did end up going to one. But I'm really glad I didn't. From what I've read, in America at least, boarding school is more of an awful cliquish place full of insanely rich people, and less like Mallory Towers or Hogwarts.

Anonymous said...

Book bigots! My poor children don't even know what trousers are :) Last summer we spent a month with our friends from the UK. My kids picked up a whole new set of vocabulary and a few books from British authors. Unfortunately Enid wasn't one of them.

I will have you know arduous, I can make a toast butter sandwich without ever reading a book by Blyton, though my kids do complain about my stinginess with butter. Does she say "take two pieces of toast, put a whole stick of butter in between."?

ruchi said...

Cindy, your kids might be just a smidge too young for Blyton except for the "Noddy" series which I always found very boring even as a little child. Though maybe the older one is old enough to enjoy the "Secret Seven" series or the "Faraway Tree" series. For some reason, the latter series is one of the few Blyton books readily avail here. You can find them used and new on Amazon.

As for the toast, it has to be dripping with butter to the point where a dog nearby might be able to get a lick of the butter as it drops from the toast. As a child, I used to make a piece of toast, take a ton of butter and smother the toast, and then put the whole thing in the microwave for seven seconds so that the butter was properly melted. As you can tell, I had it down to a science. As I got older, butter became verboten, and I stopped. But now I think I might occasionally enjoy toast with butter. All things in moderation right?

Amanda said...

I have to defend American children here. I did read All of the authors you mentioned, including Enid Blyton. So, we are not completely deprived :-)

(However, I do have to say that I kept getting thrown for a loop with all the different spellings!)

ruchi said...

Amanda, oh I was just kidding around! :) I'm an American as well, but I never found those books in American bookstores, so we only got them in India and the UK. Did they actually carry the books in your local bookstore?

Unknown said...

Enid Blyton. How very British of you! We used to sell them at the second hand bookshop I worked in during high school/college. People LOVED them. Maybe I'll have to check it out.

Amanda said...

I'm not sure where my mom got them from... maybe the local used bookstore? She always seemed to have a bunch of hard to find books around. :-)

Anonymous said...

HOW DID I MISS THIS?!!?!! I even had a librarian for a mother. I feel so deprived!! I will have to catch up ASAP. Do you know that people get PhD's in children's lit so they can keep reading this stuff? Not a bad idea, if you ask me...

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Oh, I'm sure I would have hated boarding school in reality. High school was bad enough without having to spend all my time there!

The other thing with Enid Blyton (or at least the Famous Five) was how they always had a gorgeous spread of farmhouse cooking, and someone would always say that farm cooking is just sooooo much better than any other food. So my first actual experience of farmhouse cooking (thanks to a friend of my parents) had me just about wriggling off my seat in anticipation. I was pretty disappointed to find that while the food was good, it wasn't anything special!

ruchi said...

SDG, they're pretty fun though I know plenty of people who never got into them.

Amanda, yeah used bookstores makes sense. I once found her books in a small children's bookstore.

Megan, wow. A Phd in children's literature sounds awesome!!

CAE, heh, I do have to say that when I ate scones and macaroons finally for the first time there was a teeny tiny disappointment that they weren't what I thought they were. But luckily scones and macaroons are so delicious in their own right that my disappointment did not last long!

Sam said...

CAE: After a while of waiting around for the action to happen we got tired, so we decided to create some mysteries of our we wrote a threatening note to the mean old lady in our neighborhood in red ink (to simulate blood). We then dropped the note in her mailbox. But when nothing happened, we gave up on that plan.The old lady got a nice laugh out of our note however...

ruchi said...

Beany, that is really fracking funny. I'm glad the old lady enjoyed your note!

Ellen said...

I'm new here but WOW! what a fantastic idea! I remember begging my mom for bread with butter and sugar on it, after Laura Ingalls. What a great plan. I can't wait to read your reviews.

sexy said...